England's No. 1 ranking hangs heavily upon them after their 10-wicket defeat against Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai. If their first-innings capitulation was forgivable after a five-month lay-off from Test cricket, their collapse second time around was met with more consternation. The general perception was that this was one of England's worst batting displays for years.
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium, on the face of it, offers the chance of redemption. It has only staged two Tests and both finished in high-scoring draws. Pakistan and South Africa have both scored more than 500 in their first innings here so Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, in their 100th innings together as an opening pair, have every chance to reach the landmark in style.
Pakistan impressed in Dubai with the methodical way in which they dismantled England but they will surely find them more resilient opponents here.
Players to watch
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook might be about to open England's innings together for the 100th time but their partnership is showing signs of vulnerability. They have failed to reach double figures in seven of their last 11 innings and Strauss himself is in a lean run of form. Pakistan's new-ball bowler, Umar Gul, is one of the few survivors from their humiliating tour of England in 2010 and if he continues his domination over the England pair he will maintain Pakistan's momentum.
Chris Tremlett has a sore back and after his mediocre display in Dubai that seems ample cause to leave him out. England are most likely to maintain their formula of three quicks by drafting in Steven Finn but they will study the pitch anxiously before definitely omitting Monty Panesar as a second spinner.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Aizaz Cheema.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn.
Pitch and conditions
Matt Prior, England's wicketkeeper, rightly praised Dubai as an excellent Test pitch. It was not quite the benign surface that many had anticipated, offering a little encouragement for seam and spin bowlers alike. Abu Dhabi will be different, the warnings go, but at least the quicks on both sides will find the cooler temperatures in their favour.